Twin Research and Human Genetics


Population Screening for Reproductive Risk for Single Gene Disorders in Australia: Now and the Future

Martin B. Delatyckia1 c1

a1 Bruce Lefroy Centre for Genetic Health Research, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Australia; Genetic Health Services Victoria, Australia.


As the results of the Human Genome Project are realized, it has become technically possible to identify carriers of numerous autosomal and X-linked recessive disorders. Couples at risk of having a child with one of these conditions have a number of reproductive options to avoid having a child with the condition should they wish. In Australia the haemoglobinopathies are the only group of conditions for which population screening is widely offered and which is government funded. In some Australian states there are also population screening programs for cystic fibrosis and autosomal recessive conditions more common in Ashkenazi Jewish individuals which are generally offered on a user pays basis. It is predicted that as consumer demand increases and testing becomes cheaper, that many people planning or in the early stages of pregnancy will have carrier screening for multiple genetic conditions. This will have significant implications for genetic counseling, laboratory and prenatal testing resources. In addition such screening raises a number of ethical issues including the value of lives of those born with genetic conditions for which screening is available.

(Received April 27 2008)

(Accepted May 07 2008)


  • screening;
  • carrier;
  • cystic fibrosis;
  • thalassaemia;
  • Tay Sachs disease


c1 Address for correspondence: Associate Professor Martin Delatycki, 10th Floor, Royal Children's Hospital, Flemington Road, Parkville, 3052, Victoria, Australia.